No doubt you’ve seen the new H&M ad. That came out last week. No doubt you’ve seen the reaction to the picture. No doubt you’ve reacted to it yourself. It’s a situation for sure, but it’s not one I thought we’d get wrapped up in. Nevertheless, here we are.
That picture is not racist. The only thing racist about the situation is the idea that the picture could be racist. Holding the assumption that the word ‘monkey’ used in any context is racist where a black individual is involved is completely backwards. ‘Monkey’ only becomes racist if it is used in a derogatory, hateful manner. Calling a child, ANY child, a monkey is synonymous with the nature of being a child. Children are traditionally mischievous, playful and energetic, just like monkeys are. To say that putting a hoodie on a black child that has the word ‘monkey’ on it is racist, is exactly the type of attitude that suggests racism will never be completely gone. This suggests that there is a deeply embedded, internalized racist idea within all of us. And there is. It’s an evolutionary adaptation to differentiate between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
However, how do we expect to overcome this racist pre-disposition if we automatically assume that words like ‘monkey’ used in any context are purposely racist? Does this mean that we can no longer call children ‘cheeky monkeys’ because it suggests racism? Of course not. It does, however, highlight the fact that internalized racist beliefs reside within everyone, and this is illustrated by the thousands of people who were offended by a ‘racist advert’ that has no objective racist undertones. This advert only became racist due to subjective perspectives, coupled with a snowball effect of people who emotionally reacted to others’ reactions.
Do I think people overreacted? Yeah 100%. Do I think it’s important? Absolutely. We clearly still internalize racism. Until such a day where we don’t do this, racism will continue to eat away at people. It just completely baffles me that a common description of a child, such as ‘monkey’, can cause such uproar.
2018 has started the same way 2017 ended. The whole world still gets offended by the wind.